Making my interpretation of Marvel’s Ironheart armor for cosplayer Lexi Momo December 3, 2017 16:00
This was commissioned by Marvel and it is also my own interpretation of parts of Ironheart’s armor so please do not ask me to give you my 3D files. This is also a look into my process and NOT a how-to.
Some people avoid it while others are hungry for it.
Change can either open doors or shut them. It means being uncomfortable or facing the unknown. Change is risky…but so is not changing.
Whether you love or hate change, there’s no doubt that it brings new experiences.
We’ve seen fans love or hate artists for changing their style or trying new things. We’ve also seen fans remain supportive or complain when an artist has a lack of new creations.
I feel lucky that my fans have been really supportive throughout Lumecluster’s evolution. Even though change is always in my future (just not so drastic anymore), I’m still scared every time I branch out and explore. But my bigger fear as an artist is being pigeonholed and not enjoying my work anymore.
So, when Marvel asked me for my interpretation of Ironheart aka Riri Williams (custom designed for cosplayer Lexi Momo) for one of their Marvel Becoming episodes, I was pretty intrigued.
In the Marvel comics, Ironheart’s armor is really sleek. It’s also more sci-fi, which is completely different than my intricately detailed fantasy-focused designs. Even so, I was excited to try something new.
Since we weren’t making the entire Ironheart suit, I used these two images as the main sources of inspiration.
The team behind Ironheart’s Marvel Becoming episode:
- Director: Jason Latorre
- Producer: Judy Stephens
- Cosplayer: Lexi Momo
- Outfit: Lexi Momo
- Armor components: Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)
- Makeup: Lynn Leary
- PA: Chad Kofahl
- PA: Julia Zitzmann
- Studio Manager: Tara Latorre
I was curious to see how well I could apply a Lumecluster aesthetic while still honoring Marvel’s overall Ironheart design. I was itching to see what parts I could tweak or redesign…but I was also really scared.
Scared that viewers would tell me that I’m “not allowed” to make certain changes because of what they’ve seen in the Iron Man movies. Scared that people would tell me that I’m not good at the sci-fi kind of armor and to “just stick with what you’re good at.” Scared that some Marvel fans would tear me apart over why I didn’t do the whole entire suit (ummm…ever heard of budget?).
The first thing I thought was, “How can I make it so the select armor components won’t look like they can kill her? How can they be more functional?” While the armor in the comics look nice, they didn’t look like they’d properly protect Riri like the armor we’ve seen in the Iron Man movies.
For example, Riri’s gauntlet armor looked like it could cut into her wrist if she flexed it. The spread out plates also gave me the impression that her armor was revealing a lot of vulnerable weak points…
The second challenge was figuring out whether or not we could pull off making a complete enough look while only using a few armor components:
- Arc reactor
(TOP LEFT) Ironheart helmet, (TOP RIGHT) arc reactor, (BOTTOM) one of the gauntlets
Some behind-the-scenes random fun shots with Lexi Momo. THE TEAM: Judy Stephens (producer), Jason Latorre (director), Lexi Momo (cosplayer), Melissa Ng (armor components), Lynn Leary (makeup), Chad Kofahl (PA), Julia Zitzmann (PA), Tara Latorre (studio manager).
After considering the challenges, next up was finding the right inspiration.
I decided to go with the idea that Riri Williams was just in the beginning phases of building her Ironheart suit, which would explain why she doesn’t have her entire armor yet.
For the gauntlets, I noticed Iron Man’s suit seemed inspired by historical armor design but it looked too bulky for my taste. I poked around in search of something slimmer and similarly designed to use as inspiration.
(TOP) Images of one of Marvel’s Ironman suits used as a reference. (BOTTOM) Reference images grabbed from The Met Museum website. Bottom left and middle images are from the black and silver Nuremberg steel infantry armor dated around the 1600s and bottom right image is a gold and silver gauntlet from field armor dated around the 1500s.
Collage of images and screenshots I collected from Marvel’s Ironman movies and concept artwork to use as inspiration.
After searching The Met Museum website, I decided to go with the black and silver Nuremberg steel infantry armor dated around the 1600s and a gold and silver gauntlet from field armor dated around the 1500s, which you can see below. I loved the smooth, simple, and bold design, which I felt matched really well with my Iron Man gauntlet collage.
But I wanted more than just a sleek gauntlet design. I wanted details but I couldn’t go with my usual intricate patterning. So, I decided to try out circuit-inspired patterning instead.
Circuit inspired plate on the back of Ironheart’s helmet. Also visible on Ironheart’s vambrace and helmet comb
he circuit-inspired design, the asymmetrical gauntlets, and the wiring connecting the gauntlets to the arc reactor were meant to imply that Ironheart’s suit is clearly incomplete. But why not also make it look aesthetically pleasing? I mean, just because she’s in her building phase doesn’t mean she has to look like a mess, right?
It also occurred to me that Riri clearly wouldn’t have an arc reactor embedded in her chest like Tony Stark, which meant she needed some kind of harness.
(TOP) Very rough preview of Ironheart’s helmet, arc reactor, and WIP gauntlets. (BOTTOM) Iron Man inspiration from the film.
Making the harness was honestly the least fun part for me, haha. My hope was that the harness and throwing in some wires to connect the gauntlets and arc reactor would be a nice call back to the time when Tony Stark was in his early building / testing phases.
For the helmet, I didn’t want to stray too far from the original design but I added detail on the back of the head plate and extended the comb so I could add glowing details The arc reactor got some simple detailing as well.
MatCap preview of the Ironheart pieces. Designs were created within a very limited timeframe.
Here is a quick video that gives you a look into some of my process. Or you can also read on and get more detail about what went into Ironheart’s helmet, gauntlet, arc reactor design:
Once all the 3D modeling was done, I could finally start 3D printing my pieces! Yay!
I 3D printed detailed parts like the helmet comb, arc reactor, and vambrace on my Form 2 printer in their standard clear resin. I later molded and cast them in a semi-rigid resin.
Ironheart arc reactor 3D print on the Form 2.
Vambrace design 3D printed on the Form 2.
On my Taz 6, I 3D printed larger or simpler parts like the helmet, arc reactor base, and gauntlet pieces. The helmet was printed in nGen, molded and then cast in a semi-rigid resin.
Part of Ironheart’s helmet being 3D printed on the Taz 6.
Part of Ironheart’s helmet being printed on the Taz 6.
The gauntlets were printed in Taulman 3D’s PCTPE, which is not as neat or sharp as nGen when it comes to printing detail but super tough and semi-rigid (like, I could beat this stuff with a hammer and it would be fine). PCTPE is also a little fickle and prone to a bit of warping, so I decided to avoid printing the helmet in this material since I was working with a very limited time frame and didn’t have time to deal with too many issues.
Pieces printed on my Form 2 were pretty much ready to mold and cast right out of the printer (after some extra UV curing and priming) while prints from my Taz 6 needed some cleanup.
For example, I needed to sand and prime the nGen prints to get rid of print lines. Pretty straightforward.
PCTPE, on the other hand, required a different cleanup approach. Most sandpaper couldn’t really scuff the surface much without a lot of effort. Dremel sanding bands and grinders also couldn’t really cut through the material (not very neatly, at least).
Smoothing out print lines. PCTPE is a bit tough so I had to use diamond dust coated burrs to work faster.
The only thing that worked really well (and efficiently) for me was diamond coated rotary burrs, which could bite through PCTPE beautifully. After some dremeling, I filled problem spots with some flexible filler, sanded, and primed them with a high build flexible primer.
Sanding and filling problem spots on the gauntlets with flexible filler.
Painting and airbrushing is always my favorite part because you can finally start seeing it all really come to life.
Airbrushing Ironheart’s helmet.
First, the glowing circuit patterns had to be masked off with masking fluid. Next, I jumped right into airbrushing with pearlescent paints and sealing it with a flexible finish.
And then came the LED installation.
The LED work here wasn’t anything fancy. I used simple fairy LEDs.
If you want to diffuse fairy LEDs so they don’t look like ugly bright spots, I like to squeeze 2-3 drops of hot glue on some silicone, let it cool a tiny bit, place the LED on top of the glue and then press another piece of silicone on top to make a neat little disk as seen below (this is the same technique I used on my Sovereign Armor LED work).
After the hot glue is completely cooled, I rub or spray on a little white paint so it’s slightly opaque, which improves the diffusion even more. Add 1-2 layers of foam and that’s it.
Simple LED installation.
Ironheart’s arc reactor and harness.
One of Ironheart’s articulated gauntlet gloves.
Ironheart’s comb on the top of the helmet with circuit-inspired patterning.
Ironheart’s vambrace with circuit-inspired patterning.
Assembling the parts!
There was a lot more sewing than I would have liked, especially in the gauntlets. Bleah sewing. Since the gauntlet material was pretty flexible, I decided sewing in the parts instead of using rivets.
Assembling Ironheart’s gauntlet.
Ironheart’s right hand gauntlet. The vambrace is not worn here.
Looking back, there are definitely things I would do differently but, overall, I feel pretty happy about the final result within the limited time frame.
Front of Ironheart’s helmet. LEDs in eyes and forehead are off.
I’m thankful for this opportunity to create something different than what I’m accustomed to because it pushes me to expand my horizons and hone my skills in new ways.
I’ll end this with some more closeup shots of the armor, some behind-the-scenes from the Ironheart shoot below and a final question:
Are you facing any changes or challenges right now that you’re afraid to take on and what’s keeping you from taking the leap?
P.S. I had to delay the release of my new armor designs and I can’t say when they’ll be ready. While I hate the delay, I’m happy with the extra prototyping results. I always believe in quality over quantity. Thanks for your understanding and patience. For now, here’s a clip of my most recent prototype
Cosplayer Lexi Momo
Cosplayer Lexi Momo